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Rong Kou, an assistant research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, uses a scanning electron microscope at Penn State's Millennium Science Complex to study the crystalline structure of a lithium metal oxide. IMAGE: PATRICK MANSELL

Penn State tied for first nationally in NSF rankings reflecting research breadth

Posted on February 26, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s research enterprise ranks first nationally, tied with Johns Hopkins University, in the breadth and depth of its expertise, according to the latest National Science Foundation rankings of Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) research expenditures by key fields and subfields in science and engineering, released in January 2021.

The rankings, for the 2019 fiscal year, show Penn State and Johns Hopkins each with 16 research fields ranked in the top 10 in expenditures. The University of Michigan and MIT both had 13 top-10 finishes to tie for second place, and the University of California at San Diego was next with 10.

“These rankings are a reflection not only of the excellence of our research, but also of how our innovations are impacting all research domains,” said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research. “They are a testament to the exceptional creativity, ingenuity, and scholarly accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students.”

Among the fields and subfields included in the NSF report, Penn State ranked first in materials science; second in materials engineering, mechanical engineering, psychology, and mathematics; fourth in sociology, industrial/manufacturing engineering, and electrical engineering; fifth in total engineering; sixth in anthropology; seventh in computer and information sciences and aeronautical and astronautical engineering; eighth in chemical engineering and atmospheric sciences/meteorology; and ninth in geological and earth sciences and astronomy.

In terms of total research expenditures, the University ranked 23rd nationally in fiscal year 2019, with expenditures of $968 million. In fiscal year 2020, Penn State’s total research expenditures rose for the fifth straight year, to a record $1.01 billion

“Penn State’s research enterprise is a global leader, dedicated to leading new discoveries and finding innovative solutions to the world’s most complex problems,” said Weiss. “The breadth of our research and the investments from our sponsors are indicators of the ongoing confidence our sponsors have in us, for which we continue to be grateful.” 


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